I taught myself to code back in 2009.  Back then, it wasn’t so common.  It was considered pretty crazy, actually.

There are a lot more resources now, so my story might be out of date. But friends still ask me about this all the time, so instead of sending another email response tonight, I thought I’d post it here instead.

As I wrote this, I realized there are two parts. (1) Why I learned to code and (2) How I learned to code. This is part 1. I’ll try to write part 2 later this week.

Coding is a super power at an early stage startup. 

Without it, you’re stuck in the mud. My first startup back in 2007/2008 was basically Kickstarter. Great idea, right?  Although, of course, nobody thought that back then. They thought I was nuts. I’m sure the Kickstarter guys know exactly what I mean!  But Kickstarter executed and I didn’t. Props to them for killing it.

The reason this happened is that I couldn’t code, and I didn’t have the skills or the network required to convince a technical co-founder to join me.  That was 2008. I was a different person and things were a lot different in NY tech too.  A lot different.  So without the ability to build a site and to iterate on the product, I was stuck in the mud. It was hard and depressing.

So I Changed the Equation

I was set on building startups. I had quit my job as a corporate lawyer, and all I wanted to do was build companies.  With startups, you’ll find that there’s always a next biggest problem. I’ll write about that some time.  Anyway, my next biggest problem—my roadblock preventing progress at that moment—was my inability to build products. 

So I either had to quit, find a technologist who was at the co-founder level, or do it myself.  I hate quitters. I really do. So I didn’t do that. And I tried in vane to find a technical co-founder (I’ll write about that some time too). So I was left with one choice: learn to code.

It Changed Everything

Back at this time, I was struggling a lot. I was spinning my wheels but there was no traction.  I have to say that learning to code and building What Is Fresh was the catalyst that changed everything.

So, Should You Learn to Code?

It really depends. Vin Vacanti did a great post on this here: http://viniciusvacanti.com/2010/09/27/should-you-hire-a-programmer-or-diy

Don’t do it just to do it. Do it because it makes sense for you and your business. I think Vin’s post gives you a solid framework for how to think through that decision tree.

Next Up

How I learned to code in 6 weeks and built a real product. 

About Me

I’m the founder of Craft Coffee. We pioneered a new kind of coffe-of-the-month subscription. It turns your morning coffee into a moment of discovery, curated by New York’s top coffee pros.  


Craft Coffee, the company that pioneered a new kind of coffee-of-the-month subscription, has today launched a Kickstarter campaign to save your mornings.

The New York-based company plans to build the “most complete and exceptional coffee program in the Universe”, reports lead engineer Nate…

One of the best things about founding a company is the ability to get excited about something and brute force it into reality.  

It comes from this deep churning mix of anxiety and hope and optimism and swagger. It’s bound up in the fact that you’ve internalized the needs and abilities of your company so deeply that you can act on instinct. 

We make shit happen.

It’s not always like this. There are a lot of hard times and there are never enough resources.

But every once in a while you get in the groove and decide something is going to happen. And you make it happen.

I’m doing that right now.  It makes it all worth it.

I’m into real relationships.  When I’m not too busy, my preference is almost always to meet somebody in person. If we can meet in Madison Square Park outside my office, that’s even better.  I wish I could do that more.

I think that’s where real connections happen — in person.  On the phone, I tend to get sales pitches that are very disconnected from the things I think are important for me and my business.  

It’s easier not to think of the person as a human being with real interests at stake if it’s just some disembodied voice on the other end of the phone.  

Also, cell phones suck and so does VoIP.  I’m ready to bring landlines back.  The fact that we’re all on cell phones makes calls really terrible.  I usually can’t actually hear what you’re saying for some portion of the call.

Finally, LinkedIn. This post actually started as a note about the way I use LinkedIn. But then I realized there was a larger theme. I like LinkedIn and I think it’s a valuable tool for keeping track of people I know professionally. My way of using LinkedIn is to connect with only people who I’ve met in person at least once. We don’t need to be best friends, but I need to have said hello to you in person at some point.

Because of this approach, I ignore a lot of LinkedIn invites. I think LinkedIn is encouraging people to connect with people they don’t know.  That’s just not how I want to use the tool.

Conclusion?  If I don’t know you, you should try reaching out to me like a human being. Not with a generic LinkedIn invite.  ”So and so you’ve never met would like to add you to their professional network.” No thank you.

If I ignore your LinkedIn invite, it’s nothing personal. It just means we haven’t met in the real world.  I’m into the real world. It’s where real relationships happen.  Try hitting me up there.